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"THE CEDAR TREE."
FINE AUSTRALIAN PLAY.
BEAUTIFUL MUSIC AND SINGING.
Mi F. W. Thring deserves to score a lc sounding success with "The Cedar Tree " Evrjiyone concerned in this all-Australian production has worked faithfully and well, and the result Is a musical play of much more than usual charm In fact, "The Cedar Tree" is one of the most thoroughly satlsfactoiy examples of tho species that has appeared in Sydney for a very long time
The great hope for Australian literature, at its present stage, is that writers sholl bring to their novels and plays a fresh, unsophisti- cated method of approach, which will not be a mac echo of oversea oilglnals To com- bine this original outlook with genuine com- petence in c-uitbinonshlp is the problem Mr edmund Barclay, the author ot ' The C.ütu I let., nas soivea it with apparent ease Fioni Hist to last, his dialogue meilts the attention of intelligent people, yet It never becomes still or pondeious Indeed, the sympathy with willen he has Invested the various situations
is decidedly compelling He knows just how i much to suy, and vwien to stop-tim lattei aspect being most important-in order to sulki. at one's emotions
He has proved an ideal collaborator for Mib Vurney Monk who wrote mo_t of the music Ulis öyaney composer has made a great ad- vance m cxpieäsive powei since she produced tile seorc of Collits inn " That was a tuneful play, yet Its tunes lacked the full fieedom ui an experienced writer for the light musical stage One îccognlsed that clearly when Collits Inn" was succeeded by Mr Dudley Glass s more assuicd music in The Beloved Vagabond Now, however, Mis Monk can horn hei own anywhere Saturday aftei noons audience at the Criterion Theatre re- gistered the utmost approval of the charming numbers The duet, ' Hie Cedar Tree," which opened the sei les, at once set tho standard in the calm sincerity of its lyric feeling, which attained distinction thiough the qualities of tasto and restraint Later, some charming conceits adorned the progress of the score In the solo, We Never Really Meant Good- bye, a quartet of girls in deep shadow behind tue spotlighted soprano burst suddenly Into an enchanting, faintly-heard i of rain In the Coo-ee" song, Miss Gladys Moncrlcil s voice was answered, with beautiful effect, by onothci soprano off-stage
The influence of Mr Will Quintrell as con- ductor was Invaluable in securing orchestial light and shade, and a consistent aleitness of rhythm which brought out the utmost effect from every song
If Mr Barclay has been fortunate in having Mis Monk to eniich his te\t (and that of his wife, Helene Barclay, who has provided most of the admirable lyrics), Mrs Monk has been equally blessed in securing singers to completely wot thy of her score First and foremost, there is Miss Gladys Moncrleff
Miss Moncrieff has seldom been in finer voice than she was on Satuiday afternoon and ceitainly at no time in her career has she come nearer to being regarded as a distinguished actress After the first few minutes, shs quite discarded the conventional musical comedy style of declamation which has so often weakened her performances In the past, and expiesscd the personality of Dianella Weston, the shipyard owner, with quiet naturalness of manner She looked charming in the beautiful costumes that had been provided foi hei-especially the white ball dress In the second and fourth scenes Her song, "How I Love You,' and the duet
It Had to Be," with Mr; Russell Scott as tenor, moved the matinee audience to rap- turous bursts of applause
Mr Scott appeared to much better advan tigc in "The Cedar Trse" than he had done In its predecessor, "Jolly Roger " Even so his strength lay lather in singing than in acting He was at his best in the later patt of the play, when Lieutenant Peter Vcrncrs had shed rank and romantic aspirations and be- came a sturdy cedar-cutter Here, in the Valley of the Cedar, occuricd his song, the
'March of the Pioneers " It was a splendid burst of melody, voiced with staunch lustiness by both soloist and male chorus The words, extolling Australia's present beauty and fututc granacur, stiuck a line note of patriotic fer voui, straightforward, yet not too heavily em- phasised In the past, when Austi allan sentiment or Australian local colour weie at- tempted, the tendency has always been to lov these qualities on with a trowel The present play, through its Judicious awareness of the local background, provides a highly signifi- cant example for Australian literature in general and it will give audiences a greater consciousness of their own country as a source of vivid dramatic material
The effect of the pioneers' chorus was en- hanced by the Intensively Australian scenic envelope Mr W R Coleman had provided for It The golden light dwelling among gum trees was redolent of the local soil. The only jarring touch at this stage was the Immobi- lised waterfall But when the bird ballet occupied the same setting, the effect became much less potent The scene-painting was literal to the last degree, with every leaf represented on every branch The costuming of the dancers was equally detailed, with eveiy blight feather given due distinctness The result was a clash, in which both clements lost a good deal of pictorial value Still, the ballet was intensely enjoyable, because the dancers-a more than usually comely group of girls-performed it with such grace ond verve, and because Miss Jenny Brenan and Miss Molly Radcliffe had been so fertile in evolving the lovely counterpoint of contrasting move- ment, based on the classical tradition The music for this festival of birds had been inter- polated by Miss Alma Palmer, and charming It proved to be
Not only here, but throughout both acts of the play, the ballets greatly enriched the other features of the production, and, In turn, the quaintly beautiful 1840 costumes, chosen with a sensitive eye to colour harmony, enhanced the effect of the ballets ' Cupid Follows the Mode," In which Miss Jean Batty sang with pleasant effect, was specially popular, and there was a delicious old-world whimsicality about the movements interpolated among the verses of Miss Byrl Walkley's song, "Hawkes- bury Rivei Road " Both here and in "We Really Never Meant Good-bye" Miss Walk lev's tender, graceful sympathetic interpo- lation of an ageing woman and her eloquent singing, stamped this actress anew as a really
Mr Claude Flemming, who produced the play, gave exactly the right feeling of prosaic, yel Rood-natured dignity to his paît as a Sydney merchant in love Mr Alfred Frith proved an Ideal choice foi the îole of the poor, mad Flying Pieman The slightest over- emphasis, and the pathos that lurks behind this character s surface humour would vanish, and give place to lcpulslon The part calls foi an artist, as well as tor a comedian Mr Frith proved himself both
Miss Phyllis Baker was a blight, attrac- tive, natural little soubrette, nevei striving too hard to gain an effect Mr Paul O'lough- lin was exactly right in manner and emotional tone as Carvel, Dlanella's weakling brother Mr Joe Valli made an amusing batman, and Mr Reginald Roberts played well as the rugged foreman shipwright Others in the cast were Mr Norman Shepherd, Mr Les King, Mr Jock Thompson and Mr Robert Nicholson Miss Gloria Williams and Miss Gwen Burgoine were the solo dancers Extra lyrics had been supplied by Mrs Monk and Mr Jack McLeod_